ON THE PITCH

Soccer Recap - Zlatan Ibrahimović steals the show in MLS debut

Caption: Ibrahimović came off the bench in the 71st minute and scored a brace in his MLS debut. LA Galaxy

No story may have garnered more eyeballs in the soccer world this weekend than the debut of Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the LA Galaxy. The Sweden international arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night, trained for the first time with his new team on Friday and helped his club to win the first LA derby.

Elsewhere in the world, leagues resumed after the FIFA international break. Coming up this week is the return of international club competition, including the UEFA Champions League.

Here are the top stories in soccer from the weekend:

Premier League

Manchester City picked up a 3-1 win at Everton, setting them up for a chance to clinch their third Premier League title in the 176th Manchester Derby next weekend against Manchester United. To be crowned against their neighbors - and in front of their people at the City of Manchester Stadium - would be a sweet way for the “noisy neighbors” to cap off the season.

The other race worth following is the other three spots for Champions League. Tottenham solidified their way towards securing a return to Europe’s primary international competition by defeating Chelsea 3-1 at their place, also compromising their London rivals into possibly missing out from the same competition. Arsenal picked up a 3-0 win vs. Stoke City, who are heading towards relegation while other relegation bound clubs West Brom and Southampton also lost.

Liverpool and Leicester City picked up road wins, Manchester United won 2-nil over Swansea and Newcastle picked up a 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town. Manchester City and Liverpool - the two remaining teams in Champions League - face off Wednesday in the first leg of the UCL quarter finals.

Top 5: Manchester City (84), Manchester United (68), Liverpool (66), Tottenham (64), Chelsea (56)

La Liga

Sevilla was winning 2-nil against FC Barcelona, having the league leaders against the ropes. Then Leo Messi came off the bench to inspire to a 2-2 draw - scoring one of his own to save a point and keep Barcelona’s undefeated record intact. Atletico Madrid, who were without star forward Antoine Griezmann, picked up a 1-nil win over Deportivo to keep pace in second. Real Madrid is behind them in third with a 3-nil win this weekend over Las Palmas. Valencia got a 1-nil win at Leganes while Villarreal stumbled, losing 1-nil at Malaga.

Top 5: FC Barcelona (76), Atletico Madrid (67), Real Madrid (63), Valencia (62), Villarreal (47)

Bundesliga

FC Bayern Munich continue to dominate the Bundesliga by defeating their hated rivals Borussia Dortmund in a 6-nil beatdown. FCB continues to hold a stranglehold on the league with a 17 point lead, making it only a matter of time until they secure their 27th title. Schalke continues in second with a 2-nil win over Freiburg. Hoffenheim also picked up a 6-0 win, at home over Cologne. Leipzig got a 3-2 win at Hannover 96.

Top 5: FC Bayern Munich (69), Schalke 04 (52), Dortmund (48), RB Leipzig (46), Bayer Leverkusen (45)

Serie A

Juventus stayed at the top of the table with a 3-1 win over A.C. Milan, who fall to eight points from the top four. Napoli drew 1-1 at Sassuolo while Inter Milan won 3-0 vs. Hellas Verona. Lazio dominated Benevento in a 6-2 home win. The Serie A continues Tuesday with clubs playing midweek and on the weekend this week.

Top 5: Juventus (78), Napoli (74), Roma (60), Inter Milan (58), Lazio (57)

Ligue 1

There were only seven league matches this past weekend - excluding PSG and Marseille. Among notable results, Guingamp won 2-1 over Bordeaux, Nantes lost 0-3 vs. St. Etienne and Nice won 2-0 at Troyes with a double from Alassane Plea. Lyon won 2-0 at Toulouse. Monaco have their week 31 match coming up Wednesday.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (83), Monaco (66), Marseille (62), Lyon (60), Montpellier (45)

Major League Soccer

Toronto FC picked up their first win of the season in a 3-1 bout over Real Salt Lake, days before their semifinal bout against Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League. Orlando picked up its first three points as well against the other MLS team still alive in CCL, New York Red Bulls. Vancouver - the best road team since 2015 - won 2-1 at Columbus, while Atlanta, NYCFC and Montreal picked up away wins at Minnesota, San Jose and Seattle respectively. Sporting KC defeated D.C. United at home while Colorado won 3-0 over Philadelphia.

The Houston Dynamo lost 2-0 at home to the New England Revolution, now the Dynamo’s second loss of the season after losing only once in league play in 2017. Down 1-0, the Men in Orange were down to ten men with the red card to team captain DaMarcus Beasley in the 35th minute. The Revs scored midway in the second half to secure the win - sending Houston into a three game winless streak.

The match of the weekend was the first ever LA Derby. Sold out before the announcement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the LA Galaxy, the first ever “El Trafico” (nicknamed after the city’s traffic reputation) started with dominance from expansion side LAFC. Carlos Vela put up the Black and Gold in the lead after five minutes, which eventually turned into a 3-nil lead. A goal by U.S. international Sebastian Lletget put the Galaxy back in it before Zlatan came in to inspire his team to the comeback victory, starting off the second goal and scoring the third and fourth. Sebastian Lletget will be a guest on Glenn Davis’ Soccer Matters this coming Wednesday (7-9 p.m. CT) on ESPN 97.5 FM.

East Top 6: NYCFC (13), Columbus Crew SC (10), Atlanta United (9), New England Revolution (7), NY Red Bulls (6), Montreal Impact (6)

West Top 6: Sporting KC (10), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10), LA Galaxy (7), LAFC (6), Minnesota United (6), FC Dallas (5)

Liga MX

With a 2-1 win at Lobos, and a Atlas 3-2 win over Santos Laguna, Toluca are now top of the table in Mexico. Tigres won at home, 4-1 over Leon, in the battle of the felines. Chivas won 2-1 at Monarcas, days before their semifinal bout vs. NY Red Bulls, while the other Mexican Champions League team Club America won 2-1 over their Mexico City rivals Cruz Azul - eliminating them from the playoff race.

Top 5: Toluca (27), Santos Laguna (26), Tigres (25), Club America (24), Monterrey (21)

National Women’s Soccer League

Houston Dash opened week two in the NWSL with a scoreless draw against the Utah Royals - starting off new coach Vera Pauw’s era with two draws. North Carolina Courage welcomed Sky Blue FC to the 2018 season with a 1-0 win at home. Washington Spirit defeated Orlando Pride 2-0 while Portland Thorns won 3-2 at Chicago Red Stars. The league now breaks for FIFA friendlies.

The United States Women’s National Team will face off against Mexico at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday (12:30 p.m., TICKETS).

Top 4: North Carolina Courage (6), Seattle Reign (3), Washington Spirit (3), Portland Thorns (3)

Upcoming matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 3:

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Juventus vs. Real Madrid (FS1/FOX Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Sevilla vs. FC Bayern Munich (Facebook/ESPN Deportes)

7 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Toronto FC vs. Club America (go90.com/Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, Apr. 4:

11:30 a.m. - [Serie A] A.C. Milan vs. Inter Milan (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Roma (FS1/ESPN Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Liverpool vs. Manchester City (FS2)

9 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Chivas Guadalajara vs. New York Red Bulls (go90.com/Univision Deportes)

Thursday, Apr. 5:

2 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow (FS1)

2 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting CP (FS2)

6 p.m. - [International Friendly] U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Mexico (FS1/Univision Deportes)

Friday, Apr. 6:

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hannover vs. Werder Bremen (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] St. Etienne vs. Paris Saint-Germain (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Apr. 7:

8 a.m. - [Serie A] Benevento vs. Juventus (beIN Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. FC Bayern Munich (FS2/UniMas)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Manchester United (NBC)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Leganes (beIN Sports)

4 p.m. - [MLS] Atlanta United vs. LAFC (ESPN)

Sunday, Apr. 8:

8:15 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Stuttgart (FS1)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

12:30 p.m. - [International Friendly] U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Mexico (FOX)

3 p.m. - [MLS] Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers (ESPN)

8 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Sporting KC (FS1)

Sunday, Apr. 9:

2 p.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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